Military Readiness Sagging, Gop Says Report Contradicts Claims by Clinton

Article excerpt

U.S. military readiness is sagging across all the armed services, according to a new Republican assessment.

The report, released Sunday, found Army tank crews forced to pretend they were driving their tanks during training exercises; tank commanders put in the field before they had trained with their platoons, and Air Force crews in Europe badly overextended by missions over Bosnia and northern Iraq.

The report, by Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., also said 28 Marine and Navy tactical air squadrons were forced to ground half their planes in September, and it found a decline in readiness ratings for ships in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.

Spence, who is set to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, disputed claims by President Bill Clinton's administration that below-par military preparedness had turned up only in isolated instances.

"Our forces are suffering through the early stages of a longer-term systemic military readiness problem that is not confined to any one quarter of a fiscal year or portion of the force," Spence said. "The damaging effects of this readiness problem are being felt all year long, throughout the force and in every service."

The 15-page report signals that congressional Republicans aren't ready to accept Clinton's assurances that the readiness problem is under control. It also signals that Republicans are dissatisfied with Clinton's proposal last week to pump $25 billion more into defense spending over the next six years.

In a written response, the Pentagon cited the $25 billion commitment as the latest sign that Clinton and Defense Secretary William Perry "are committed to maintaining a high state of military readiness . . . The Defense Department is moving aggressively to address readiness problems when they occur."

Among other things, Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch has asked the military service chiefs to report to him each month on readiness. …